Hasdeo row: Three coal mining projects put on hold in Chhattisgarh | Raipur News

RAIPUR: Amidst mounting protests by tribals and environment activists, the Chhattisgarh government has put on hold three mining projects in Hasdeo Arand area in Surguja and Surajpur districts in state’s northern region — more than a fortnight after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said “he has a problem with the decision” of his own party on expansion of coal mining operations.

The row reached a flashpoint three days after senior leader and health minister TS Singhdeo, the local legislator of the region, visited the villagers and threw his weight behind the agitation.
Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel promptly maintained that not even a branch of any tree would be cut if Singhdeo opposed the coal mining operations.
Speaking to TOI, Surguja district collector Sanjeev Jha confirmed, “It’s true that all the official procedures have been put on hold for three mining projects to be carried out in second phase of Parsa East and Kente Basan (PEKB), Parsa and Kete Extension coal mining projects.”
The collector said, “The local MLA and senior Congress leader TS Singhdeo had recently opposed the mining projects and had expressed his displeasure against mining. With due respect to his wishes, we have also cancelled two public hearings for environmental clearance of Kete extension that was scheduled on June 13 and the resettlement and rehabilitation police meeting for PEKB, phase 2 scheduled on June 8.”
All three coal block projects are allotted to Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Limited (RVNUL).
However, Alok Shukla, convenor of Chhattisgarh Bachao Aandolan and environment activist said that it’s a good message that the projects under second phase have been put on hold but more than holding them, it’s more important to take a permanent decision of their cancellation.
“Unless the projects at Hasdeo forest area are cancelled, the protests would continue there. More than 600 trees have been cut there and the voice of tribals has echoed across the country, with support from Rahul Gandhi and TS Singhdeo. Despite that, there were illegal allotments done in the gram sabhas. The tribals want a permanent cancellation of these projects,” Shukla said.
Congress-ruled Rajasthan had mounted pressure within the party to impress upon Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh to grant clearance for mining operations in view of the severe coal shortage and power in that state.
Subsequently, the state government granted approval for 841.538 hectares of forest land for the Parsa Mining Project on April 6 this year, while the second phase of the 1136.328 Ha PEKB Project got the approval on March 25.
On May 23, Rahul Gandhi during an address to students at Cambridge University in UK said that he does not defend the decision of Congress government.
Besides, he also justified the ongoing protests by the tribals of Hasdeo region adding that he is internally working within the party on the issue and the results will be visible in a couple of weeks.
After granting approval for mining operations in PEKB Phase-II project, chief minister Bhupesh Baghel has been strongly defending his decision, even suggesting that those opposing the project must switch off their fans, and air conditioners and stop using electricity.
Moreover, he has been asserting that coal is inevitable for power generation until an alternative is found.
However, Singhdeo openly pledged support to the agitation by the tribals in his home turf Surguja division apparently changed the stand of chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, who said “Singhdeo is the local legislator.
If he is against it, not even a branch of any tree would be cut.”
Baghel and Singhdeo were locked in a power struggle in August last year and the health minister’s public stand supporting the agitation was initially seen as a step after Rahul Gandhi’s Cambridge statement on Hasdeo.
While the government seems to be putting the onus of the decision on local legislator TS Singhdeo, political circles believe that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s stand over Hasdeo could be the reason for putting the coal projects on hold in the midst of agitation by the tribal communities against tree felling as assembly elections are due in Chhattisgarh later next year.
Now the Congress government in Rajasthan, where the state is staring at a power crisis due to coal shortage for its thermal power plants, could take up the matter again with Congress president Sonia Gandhi to explain their stand as any serious power shortage could hit the Congress prospects in the assembly elections next year.
Speaking to TOI, health minister and the local legislator TS Singhdeo said, “I would like to clarify that the decision on projects being put on hold has nothing to do with my opinion and it doesn’t count for, rather, it’s the people’s opinion that’s to be taken and acted accordingly. My duty is to represent people’s views when it’s unanimous and having a common opinion.”
Recalling past instances when he supported peoples’ views, Singhdeo said that the land acquisition should be based on peoples’ consent and the rules under FRA, PESA and others should be made clear to them with reasons.

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